German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has dismissed reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.
When asked about the issue during an interview with Die Welt newspaper on Saturday, Scholz said the media had been too loose in its interpretation of official reports from Berlin on its discussions with Moscow.
“For good reasons, I don’t speak about the negotiations that I have with the Russian president. But here’s what I can say: The reports that I read about the alleged threats during these negotiations are false,” the chancellor said.
The Russian and German leaders last talked on the phone in mid-September. According to Berlin, Scholz urged Putin to find a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Ukraine based on a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops during their 90-minute conversation. He also “emphasized that any further Russian annexation steps would not go unanswered and would not be recognized under any circumstances.”
According to the Kremlin, Putin told Scholz about the incessant shelling of cities in Donbass by Ukraine, which had led to civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure. The Russian leader called it a “gross violation of humanitarian law” by Kiev.
A few weeks after that, referendums on joining Russia were held in Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, and in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with the territories being officially incorporated into the Russian state in early October.
Earlier this week, Scholz told Deutschlandfunk outlet that the tone of his conversations with Putin “is always friendly, even if we have very different views on the matter.”
“I think it’s important that we have this conversation,” the chancellor said, but added that one shouldn’t “harbor any illusions” about those contacts bringing swift results.